To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s opening remarks click here.
To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s questioning click here.
Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing to review the implementation of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), ranking member of the Committee, questioned the Honorable Susan Combs, Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget, U.S. Department of the Interior, about the Administration’s budget proposal to zero out funding for the LWCF.
“Ms. Combs, there’s a process of putting budgets together. When I was governor, I had every agency give me their requests and we would look at it strategically to see what we could do, what we couldn’t do and how much of whatever needed eliminating. Can you tell me what your request was for LWCF?” Senator Manchin asked.
“The budget that was put in does not have any funding for LWCF,” Hon. Combs said.
“So you didn’t request anything?” Senator Manchin asked.
“No, sir,” Hon. Combs said.
“You left it zero?” Senator Manchin asked.
“Yes, sir,” Hon. Combs said.
“That’s not good,” Senator Manchin said.
Senator Manchin also questioned witnesses about the connection between LWCF acquisitions and the deferred maintenance backlog.
“One week ago, our Committee held a hearing on deferred maintenance on public lands. We discussed funding to fix the $19 billion backlog and solutions like the Restore our Parks Act of which I’m also a co-sponsor. At the same time, I’m the lead sponsor of a bill to provide mandatory funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund along with 43 co-sponsors. I know some of my colleagues believe we must choose between funding LWCF and a deferred maintenance backlog. I’m just not in that camp at all. So my question would be, can you briefly describe how much if any LWCF acquisitions have added to the maintenance backlog?” Senator Manchin said.
“Our deferred maintenance on infrastructure is a tremendous issue for us. When we look at acquisitions through LWCF that’s actually a huge thing that we focus on. How do we not inherit additional deferred maintenance on infrastructure? So we focus our program on making sure when we do those purchases, we’re using partners or the work is done before. We try to limit taking on any new deferred maintenance,” said Chris French, Deputy Chief of U.S. Forest Service.
“There’s a lot of places where acquisitions that are strategically done actually reduce the maintenance costs in the long term. So you’re seeing places where fencing or different types of habitat management or conflicts with local land managers where they really would like to sell but this is where predictability comes in. It’s hard for these guys to plan when they have no idea what the funding level is going to be. Which is why we really do need the permanent funding at the $900 million level so they can make those decisions,” said Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of National Wildlife Federation.
Senator Manchin also stressed the need for permanent LWCF program funding.
“I am excited for today’s discussion about a program that continues to demonstrate the benefits of conservation throughout this country and enables access for millions of Americans and visitors from around the world to enjoy our treasured public lands while preserving them for generations to come,” Senator Manchin said. “Unfortunately, LWCF does not have the certainty of funding and was zeroed out in the President’s FY20 budget proposal. Our legislation would provide full permanent funding to LWCF at a level of $900 million so the program can continue to preserve, protect and invest in our nation’s public lands. Permanent funding is the next step Congress must take after our historic achievement earlier this year to permanently reauthorize the LWCF program.
The hearing featured testimony from representatives from the National Wildlife Federation, the National Association of State Outdoor Recreation Liaison Officers, and the Property and Environment Research Center, as well as the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service.
To read their testimonies click here.
To watch the hearing in full click here.